Nut loaf gets a bad rap, probably dating back to the point where it was often proffered up as the only vegetarian option by restaurants (or relatives) without much concept of how interesting vegetarian cuisine can be. These days, I think the prize for most-boring-through-ubiquity Christmas lunch option goes to the pasta bake, available at most restaurants throughout December.
Personally, though, I love a good nut roast. We invented this recipe for Christmas lunch this year: made festive by the addition of cranberries, and with fresh herbs picked straight from the garden (even in the depths of winter), it was certainly both tasty and colourful.
The portobello mushrooms look good, but do undermine the structural integrity a little, so you have to slice the finished loaf rather carefully, and into not-too-thin slices - but why would you want a thin slice, anyway?
Cranberry & Mushroom Nut Loaf
150g mixed nuts (I used cashews, hazelnuts, and walnuts)
200g cooked chestnuts
1 stick of celery
250g chestnut mushrooms
1tbsp olive oil
100g fresh cranberries 1tbsp sesame seeds
1tbsp fresh sage
1tbsp fresh rosemary
2 slices wholemeal bread (preferably a little stale)
Salt & pepper (to taste)
2 large portobello mushrooms
- Grease and line a 1lb loaf tin, and preheat the oven to 200°C (180°C for a fan oven).
- Lightly toast the mixed nuts in a large, dry pan. Remove from the heat and allow to cool before chopping.
- Finely chop the onion and celery. Roughly chop the chestnut mushrooms and chestnuts.
- Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan, and fry the onion, celery, chestnut mushrooms, and cranberries with the herbs and sesame seeds until the onion and mushrooms are soft. Most of the cranberries will probably burst, which is fine.
- Shred the bread into breadcrumbs (it's quickest to use a food processor).
- Beat the eggs.
- In a large bowl, gently combine all the ingredients apart from the portobello mushrooms. In particular, make sure that the egg is evenly distributed throughout the mixture.
- Press a half-inch thick layer of the nut mixture into the bottom of the loaf tin.
- Arrange the two portobello mushrooms in the tin, and pack nut mixture around them, taking particular care to fill the corners and sides.
- Press the remaining mixture in to fill the tin and cover the mushrooms.
- Cover the loaf with baking foil, and bake for an hour. Remove the foil half way through baking to allow the top to crisp.
- Turn out and slice to serve, straight from the oven.